Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jeremiah Bishop's Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

This inaugural Alpine Loop Gran Fondo was brought to the public by Cannondale Factory Racing rider, Jeremiah Bishop. This route just so happens to be his favorite training ride and there is no doubt in my mind that it gives him the kind of tough, dependably difficult ride that a competitor of his caliber needs to stay on top of his overall training. Beyond the excitement Jeremiah must have felt at the opportunity to share his favorite ride with so many fellow cyclists, the real purpose and pride of Jeremiah Bishop's Alpine Loop Gran Fondo was, and will continue to be, a ride to raise awareness and support for prostate cancer. To learn more about his and the "Prostate Cancer Awareness Project" initiative, do visit
Proud of my accomplishment and my legs for that day!
Having finished the ride, I was all smiles. There was a lot about this ride that challenged me in ways I have not so acutely faced (9,300+ ft of climbing for one ride). Yet, I surprised myself in a way that I am proud to write about; suffering with 130 other riders in this challenging and rewarding event.

Overall, I finished 12th. In my age group (18-24) I finished 2nd. My legs found a rhythm on those climbs like I hadn't seen since the Morgantown Road Race and Penn State at the Nittany Cycling Classic. Those were climber's races and this was no different, except that people I was passing on the climbs gave me words of encouragement to keep pushing on and keep driving for strong finishes on each ascent. I either thanked people or tried to pop a joke to spring a smile while we ticked away to the finish.
Here's my Alpine Loop. (Missed turn much? Though, I wasn't the only one.)
The course was, of course, hilly. But what scared me the most were the descents. I am a poor descender to begin with, but at least this was not a race. Remembering this fact helped me not take any uncomfortable unnecessary risks. With hands cramping and the threat of running into the back of some cars let alone off the side of the road or smack into some oncoming cars through blind turns, I made it down those hills like everyone else, and at least I was warned before some sketchy sections. Large yellow "Danger" signs preceded those sections and though I ended up despising the sight of them, (in a "oh what could be coming next!?!" kind of way) they prove to be just an example of how well this event was thought out and supported. Through personal contributions of Jeremiah Bishop and, no doubt, many valuable volunteers, the route was well marked, the riders were well fed, and the suffering was well worth it.

My Strava profile from the ride (my first "epic") indicates how well I felt going up each of those climbs. I didn't know what to expect beyond suffering. The climbs seemed to keep going, and not knowing how far they went after the next turn or what it would feel like climb a dirt/gravel/mud ascent with a difficult average gradient could be construed as a significant disadvantage. Yet, my legs just didn't seem to mind as they slotted into a rhythm and pumped away. Even between the major ascents and descents, I was feeling strong and able. At different points I helped drive a high pace with other riders and even rode away from and passed groups out on the road driving to the finish. I was in a rhythm and did not want to wait any longer than I had to to get across that finish line.

I was careful to keep eating my Nutri-Grain and Cliff bars between rest stops as well as my bottles topped off with liquids throughout the ride. Those rest stops were great to have as fully-stocked, calorie and endurance specific refueling stations for everyone. Experience told me to make sure I left Bryan's car with enough in my pocket to fend for myself against the distance and grueling unknown. Bryan, of course was my ride, and I want to toss full props to him for lugging me back and forth with full participation in the loop; encouraging me to do it in the first place. We both really enjoyed the day and I will say we are looking forward to next year's event. Though neither of us paid too much attention to the "King Of the Mountains"(KOM) competition in preparation for the ride, we now are looking forward to putting our best legs forward in those two sections next year. I will also make sure I don't miss a turn mid-way through the ride either as Bryan and I both missed turns and added to our loop accordingly, though not at the same time.
Doing my best to finish strong after a long dirty climb. (soleport flickr)
Thanks to Jeremiah Bishop for putting on this encouraging event and all the volunteers and riders that back his part in the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project. I had the opportunity to share a few words with him during the ride as he slipped back through the field to chat and personally thank the riders that showed up for his event. After telling him how I could see this event growing from year to year, he shared the optimism in stating his hope that the ride double in size next year. His excitement throughout the event was infectious and I plan on being a part of this for years to come.

Mid Atlantic Timing results show the overall times and where the results lie (missed turns not factored).

I only wish I could train like this all the time (or for races of this nature)... I really could get used to it. Thanks for reading.


  1. Time for some descending instruction, my fiend. ;-)
    Awesome ride indeed!!!!

  2. Right. I think it was a matter of not knowing the descents, having cars going slower in front of me, and overall... not being used to serious descents like the 10 mile one we had at the end. Practice makes perfect and I simply don't have all that much. That also means I have to ascend a lot more too!!

  3. So, Steve flexes his arm in post-race photos... Your thing is to flex the legs. You win.